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Making vanilla extract

 
pollinator
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I’m not sure if this topic is worthy of Permies, since the beans come from Madagascar. It’s probably a little more permie to extract my own than buy those tiny bottles.

Vanilla extract has gotten really expensive. I’m pretty sure it is not as flavorful as it used to be. I’m trying to make my own. Homemade ice cream next summer and some extract for my friends are my main goals. The process is simple, ten sliced beans in .75 liters of 40 percent alcohol. Shake every week. Age a few months.

The problem is I’m not sure if I got good beans. How do you tell?  They seem small, but they look fine, no mold. They don’t smell bad, but they don’t have nearly as strong of a smell as I expected. Maybe too dry? The were pretty hard to cut.  I went ahead and put them in the rum. Maybe I should order a few more beans from a different source?
 
pollinator
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I make my own extract as well, but I don't find it cheaper than store bought, just better. I typically buy my beans on amazon, best price on larger quantities. The beans should be moist, and very aromatic.
 
gardener & hugelmaster
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Agreed. Better quality by far. Fresh beans have a strong vanilla smell. Don't panic if yours are a little weak. The flavor & smell get increasingly stronger as it ages in the alcohol. Ten complete beans will be very potent. Enjoy!!!



 
steward
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Stacy Witscher wrote:The beans should be moist, and very aromatic.



Yup ditto on that. Fresh vanilla beans can sometimes be a little plump, are pliable and often can have a sort of resiny residue on them for lack of a better term. My wife and I buy in quantity and vacuum seal our beans for storage and there's a tacky film from the beans left behind on the inside of the bag.
 
Ken W Wilson
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Thanks everybody!

Better quality is my main goal. I thought it might be a little cheaper, but it’s ok if it’s not.

It sounds like my beans were too dry, but might turn out ok. I’ll try aging it for at least a few months.

I guess if it turns out tasting week, I could add more beans later.
 
Ken W Wilson
pollinator
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It smells good! I’m comparing to some McCormick. I think it already has more vanilla smell, but it does have more of an alcohol smell too. I will see what another month dies for it.
 
James Freyr
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Thanks for reporting back with an update! :)
 
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for those of you growing vanilla bean orchid
14C was cold enough to kill my plant
in colder climates it is best to keep it indoors as a house plant

with all the synbio derived vanilla flavouring out there it would be good to make youre own and avoid products with vanilla flavouring
 
pollinator
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Hubby and I had a conversation about this today and our takeaway was that it wasn't cheaper to make your own, but the price was comparable and the quality might be better. I'm currently running through some vanilla syrup that I like quite a lot in my coffee and wondering if I can make it better/cheaper myself.
 
Mike Barkley
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I would say approximately equal price as real vanilla extract but better flavor.

Artificial vanilla extract ... well, just read this ... how it's made. Yuk. Wood chips are better used for mulch than cookies.
 
steward & bricolagier
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I'm planning to try a vanilla orchid vine in my greenhouse! Only orchid I have on my want list :)
 
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Hi Ken. I have made vanilla extract twice. The first time my vanilla beans were plump and fragrant. The vanilla extract turned out great. The second time the beans were dry and hard to cut. The vanilla extract was noticeably less flavorful. Luckily you've got time to see how yours turns out before summer. If by March the vanilla extract seems to weak, then you could order some more beans and toss them in then.
 
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my only suggestion is that if you use vodka and there are young people present in your house who are aspiring bartenders who like to make fancy cocktails, PROTECT your extract and label it something like "ant poison." Just recently I found that my 750ml of extract was down to about 200ml. The kid had that dog-caught-in-the-trash-can look for a second before regaling me with tales of what she made, which admittedly sounded fabulous.
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